Pangkalan Kerinci. Five years since the Fire Free Village Program was initiated by Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper, or RAPP, a subsidiary of April Group, the number of forest fires in Riau has reached a record low.
The Fire Free Village Program became a breakthrough in the prevention of forest fires by involving communities living in the company's concession areas. Started in 2014, the program helps prevent forest fires and educate local communities about the dangers of using slash-and-burn techniques to clear land, especially how they can start even larger forest fires.
Since the program's inception, the number of forest fire incidents has decreased every year. In 2014, forest fires occurred in 0.18 percent of areas under RAPP’s supervision. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, the number of incidents was reduced to 0.01 percent, 0.07 percent and 0.03 percent respectively. In 2018 the number was brought back down again to 0.02 percent of the total area.
The Fire Free Village Program is part of RAPP’s continued effort to prevent forest fires. So far the program has been especially successful in spreading awareness of forest fire prevention among local communities around its concession area.
"RAPP's Fire Free Village Program has worked closely with the government over the years to help prevent and decrease the number of forest fire incidents in Riau," RAPP president director Sihol Aritonang said during an event to celebrate the fifth year of the program in Pelalawan, Riau.
On the same occasion, RAPP also signed an MoU with nine villages and a supply partner, Sumatera Riang Lestari, to participate in the Fire Free Village Program. Out of the nine villages, three are under RAPP's guidance: Ransang, Sungai Ara and Pangkalan Terap, all located in the Pelalawan district. The remaining six are under the guidance of Sumatera Riang Lestari.
RAPP also handed out awards to nine villages participating in the program last year for their success in protecting their villages from forest fires. Each village was awarded Rp 100 million ($7000) to fund infrastructure development in their area. Since the program’s inception, RAPP has partnered with 50 villages from five districts in Riau.
The program has five main elements: preventing forest fires for three months, appointing a crew leader to help prevent forest fires, providing tools to help clear land, spreading awareness about the dangers of slash-and-burn and monitoring air quality.